In Kerala, An 86-Year-Old Elephant Caught In The Middle Of Traditions

Dakshayani is the oldest of all the other elephants and is used for temple festivals.

Thiruvanthapuram: 86-year-old female elephant Dakshayani is a symbol of pride for Kerala's Travancore Davasom Board - one of the richest temple boards of the country. On Tuesday, the 86-year-old pachyderm was at the centre of a lot of festivities. It was the temple board's attempt to enter her into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest alive captive elephant.

But her age, her fading eyesight and her wrinkled skin are still not enough reasons for the authorities to exempt her from temple festival parades.

"Elephants will continue to be used for temple festivals. Dakshayani is the oldest and is used for temple festivals only in Trivandrum. She is not sent outside the district because of her age." The temple board's Prayar Gopalakrishnan said.

Right after the ceremony, Dakshayani was rushed off by her mahout.

"She's all hot. Needs to be cooled down," he said in a hurry, before removing all the decorations adorning the elephant and splashing her with water.  

By the side of Dakshayani, is another mahout with banned piercing equipment.

Maria Jacob, an animal activist is among the few who are unhappy the temple board's latest move.

"After 65, elephants should be allowed to retire and it's well known that this does not happen. It's cruel. Temples, churches, mosques should stop the practice of using elephants for their rituals and festivities," Maria Jacob said.

Dakshayani, gifted to the Travancore Devaswom Board by the erstwhile Travancore royals, is presently housed in the Chengalloor Mahadeva Temple in the city.